Pillar, Bautista show frustration as Jays drop 3rd in a row to Braves
Words, bat-flip spark benches to clear in 7th and 8th innings
The frustration of a three-game losing streak boiled over for the Toronto Blue Jays in two bench-clearing incidents in their 8-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
The first came in the seventh inning when Jays centre-fielder Kevin Pillar struck out and took exception to a quick pitch from Braves reliever Jason Motte, yelling toward the mound before Atlanta catcher Kurt Suzuki stepped in to calm things.
The benches clear in Atlanta after Kevin Pillar takes exception to Jason Motte's quick pitch in the top of the 7th inning!!! <a href="https://t.co/fcwxtUWuYL">pic.twitter.com/fcwxtUWuYL</a>—@TheRenderMLB
"It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for," Pillar said.
"It's part of the game...I'm a competitive guy and [it was] heat of the moment. Obviously I'm going to do whatever I've got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn't do anything wrong, it was all me."
Then, in the eighth, the benches emptied after Toronto's Bautista homered to left, standing at home plate and staring toward pitcher Eric O'Flaherty before flipping the bat away with a towering toss. Jace Peterson said something to Bautista as he rounded first, and Suzuki was waiting for Bautista when he touched home.
No punches were thrown.
Jose Bautista just styled a solo HR that cut the Braves lead to 8-4. <br><br>God, the Blue Jays are such losers. <a href="https://t.co/d2Hb9HkBc7">pic.twitter.com/d2Hb9HkBc7</a>—@BarrettSallee
Toronto manager John Gibbons downplayed Bautista's bat flip.
"Nobody's ever seen that before?" Gibbons said mockingly. But he conceded that his team was frustrated.
"Those guys have taken it to us the last couple days," Gibbons said.
O'Flaherty, on the other hand, didn't mince words about Bautista's actions.
"That's something making the game tough to watch," the pitcher said, referring to previous home run celebrations by the Toronto slugger. "It's turned into look-at-me stuff. He hit a home run with (the Braves holding) a five-run lead and throws the bat around. I'm just tired of it. I've seen it from him enough."
O'Flaherty then brought up a huge punch that Bautista took just over a year ago during a scuffle with Texas second baseman Rougned Odor.
"I'm surprised he's ready to fight after last year," O'Flaherty said with a disdainful chuckle.
The Braves took control early in the game as Suzuki hit a three-run homer to cap a six-run first inning.
Atlanta has won three consecutive games against the Jays. After the Braves took two straight in Toronto, the teams shifted to SunTrust Park to complete the four-game, home-and-home series.
But the win was overshadowed by Freddie Freeman's injury.
Coming into the night hitting .343 and tied for the major league lead with 14 homers, Freeman was X-rayed at the stadium and will undergo further tests on Thursday.
His teammates and manager Brian Snitker were clearly concerned about the potential seriousness of the injury.
"That's the number one thing," said Suzuki, who capped the early onslaught with a three-run homer. "A win is a win. We'll take it. But we're kind of looking at the big picture. When your best player goes down, and he's hit in kind of a freak spot, you're just hoping for the best."
Freeman was injured in the fifth inning, the umpires initially ruled that Aaron Loup's pitch did not make contact. But with the Atlanta star in obvious pain, the Braves challenged and the call was reversed.
Freeman headed to the clubhouse instead of first base.
"When the best hitter in the game goes out, it really sucks," said Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz (2-4), who allowed three runs in six innings for the win.
With files from CBC Sports